Mr. Baker Man

I’m at a party. Damn, this makes me so uncomfortable, why did I come to this? I should have stayed home. Right now I could be setting down a nice plate of hot food next to my computer and starting a lovely evening of computer games and then maybe later moving to the couch and reading a book. But no, I had to come to this fucking party and stand here with this stupid grin plastered on my face so people don’t think I’m socially handicapped. Try to look open so maybe someone will come over and start a conversation, but then it will be unbearable banal small talk. I don’t want to be here I don’t want to be here. I could leave. What’s the standard minimum time I have to stay before it’s weird that I left? 15 minutes? No, that’s too short. Half hour? That’s probably the barest of bare minimums. You went to all the trouble to make brownies to bring to this thing, at least stick around to see if anyone is eating them. But I don’t have to stay an hour, no, that’s giving up way too much. 45 minutes should be perfectly acceptable. OK, get a drink and then a plate of food, but then you are absolutely obligated to try to make conversation. You have to at least try. You do. You are being graded on your performance. You don’t have to disguise the effort the obligatory small talk requires, but you do have to MAKE the effort. Ugh. OK, here goes.

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So Happy

I haven’t posted for more than a week, not even a little bit. I don’t like that, but on the other hand, I have a good reason. I’ve been working on a short story, and I found it too difficult to both come up with posts I liked for the blog and focus on my story, so I chose my story. I finished a clean first draft less than an hour ago, and I have to say, I’m kind of a little bit giddy ecstatic. It’s a story that’s been kicking around in my head for years, and it was challenging to write. It’s got too many flaws to count, however, I completed it, and I’m proud of what I produced. It is my most satisfying writing endeavor ever (so far). I’ve solicited criticism and hope to produce a second draft before too long. I am so very very happy right at this moment.

Seven Heavenly Virtues

Something I was reading earlier today casually mentioned the “Puritan virtues” of hard work, thrift, and stoicism. Reading that reminded me of a quip I heard years ago that said, “God invented work as punishment, but the Puritans turned it into a virtue.” There is a kind of joylessness in those virtues. I often think in the New England where I grew up, there was a certain admiration for what I call joyless do-your-duty, as if denying your own pleasure was something to be admired and emulated.

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A Slice of Tart

I am on the sidewalk outside the café wondering how I should play this. I ask myself, “What do I want?” That’s an easy one. I want her to fall madly in love with me. I want her to look at me with those eyes that were flashing with anger on the subway platform, no less impassioned, but with desire instead of rage. “Stop!” I tell myself. “You sound like an idiot. Just listen. Give her a chance to vent all the anger out. And then be yourself. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. That’s it. That’s all you need to do.”

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Happily Ever After

All these stories are about beginnings, all meet-cutes. But any of us who has been married, or been in a relationship, knows the beginning is just that, a beginning. The assumption, or the Hollywood ending, or the fairy tale ending, is that once the initial conflict has been smoothed over or sorted out, then love and a blissful life together just happen. But, like I said, many of us know that’s not even close to how it works in real life. The beginning is often the easiest. That’s when the attraction is strong because it is sating something that was missing. But what happens once that initial burst of attraction and satisfaction passes and day-to-day life becomes the routine? Then what? Then the truth about whether two people are not just compatible, but ready to be in a relationship comes out. Is there a way to write about that that is sexy? That has some intensity to it?

Who is a rich person?

I escaped from the city for a night to a friend’s house upstate. I was texting with a different friend who asked, “Is that a rich person’s place?”

I was taken aback. What did they mean by that? Where is the line between a rich person and a regular person? Then I realized. This is how I answered:

“The short answer is yes.”

“The longer answer is, from what I can tell, being a rich person is a lot like being an alcoholic. Everyone else knows that’s what you are, but you don’t know it, you don’t feel like one, and you always feel like there’s somebody else who is richer than you, who is a REAL rich person.”

It seems to me that somehow the label “rich person” carries baggage. Like somehow if you are labeled as such, then your hard work doesn’t feel hard, or your pain hurts less than other people’s pain.

Anyway, I wouldn’t know, because I am definitely NOT a rich person.

What was I thinking?

(I’m continuing this story that seems to be writing itself, so I gave it a name and a tag: Fool on the Hill. If you want to read all of it, click on that tag and start from the bottom.)

What was I thinking? Why did I say yes to that guy? It’s like he picked at the scab, and poured salt in. I bet he’s one of those work hard, play hard idiots. Driven, have to step up, have to, what was his expression? Make something happen. I don’t want to step up. I don’t want to “make something happen.” Who is he to criticize me? Jerk.

Everybody wants me to mature, to step up. Well screw them, all of them. Mom especially. Amy found a husband, and does her life look so awful? Would it be so bad if you did the same? She’s so happy with the twins. And here you are, living all by yourself, is that any kind of a life for a young, attractive woman? You know they say people who live alone and don’t get married aren’t as healthy and don’t live as long. Doesn’t she know how painful it is to have to explain over and over that after the way it ended with Justin I just don’t want to do it again, maybe ever. I can think of fates a thousand times worse than being single and living alone.

Everybody has their big, dramatic, grand tragedy. I mean, Mom when Dad left her. What a spectacle. And why doesn’t she have a husband now? Huh? Next time she comes after me, I’m going to say all the things I usually hold back. I’m going to hurt her. Well I don’t have a grand tragedy, but the thought of living through what happened with Justin is grand enough for my purposes. That slow, silent death of excitement, of love, of sex. Watching the disappointment in his eyes when I said I was going to get a “real” job instead of pursuing my painting. Of the way we stopped having sex and then he stopped being affectionate. And then I didn’t want to touch him, didn’t want to sleep next to him, didn’t even miss it. The way we were still friends and would laugh and gossip and tell each other how our days were, but there was no fire left. It would have been better if he beat me, if he cheated, if he spit on me. All because I didn’t want to face those canvases any longer. Because I ripped myself up and turned myself inside out and threw my blood and guts all over those panels and no one cared, no one saw it, all I ever got was, “What are you trying to do here? I’m not sure I understand why your palette is so muted.” Don’t you understand, that’s where the beauty is, in a palette that shifts subtly, not some lurid puke of all the colors of the rainbow that’s like pouring bleach into your eyes. No. No one got it. Certainly not Justin.

Cranberry Angora

I got really excited when it seemed like she actually wanted to hear about motorcycle racing. I don’t think she really cared, but it occurred to me she enjoyed seeing how worked up I got. Regardless, it was with great enthusiasm I demonstrated how I was holding the handlebars as I went into a turn and swept across the table right into her cranberry vodka and managed to launch it cleanly to the next table. Well, not to the table exactly, but square into the chest of the woman seated at the table. The woman wearing a snow white angora sweater.

I turned the color of a ripe tomato in the split second it took for the woman to scream and jump up. I was so embarrassed I think I almost started crying. “Oh my God, I am so sorry. Oh my God.” Jennie, my date, was stifling a laugh. Angora sweater woman was definitely not laughing. Mercifully, a waiter came running over with a pile of napkins and started mopping the table as he made apologetic noises. I stood there stupidly, as there was nothing I could do. “I am so sorry. Can I …” But I couldn’t finish the sentence, because there was nothing I could do.

“Forget it. Just stop.” Angora woman was not feeling conciliatory. She grabbed her purse and stomped off in the direction of the ladies’.

When she was safely out of earshot, Jennie burst out with a full-throated laugh. “That was brilliant,” she said, and not kindly. The date had been going well enough I suppose up to that point, but I could tell I had condemned myself to being thought an idiot, and not unjustifiably either.

“Not my best moment. I can be a bit clumsy at times,” was all I could muster in response. Thankfully, we had already finished our entrees, so I signaled for the check and ended the evening as quickly as possible. Bitter disappointment was my companion as I walked home. Jennie had been the most promising woman I had been out with in forever, although she had been hard to read through the early part of the evening. It was clear as we parted there wouldn’t be a second date.

Following the Jennie dinner debacle, as I had come to think of it in my head, I had decided it was time for a break from dating. Two months later I was sitting in the window of my favorite neighborhood place finishing my dinner when the waitress came over with a cranberry juice and a check. I hadn’t asked for either the check or the juice so I looked up at her confused. “I didn’t order this.”

“No, the ladies at the table over there ordered it for you and said you would pay their check.” She indicated with a nod towards a table across the dining room. It was close to closing time and the room was almost empty, so I had no trouble seeing. It was angora woman and a companion. She looked straight at me with a defiant look, as if to say, “You wouldn’t dare refuse.” The waitress, who recognized me as almost a regular, looked like she didn’t know what to expect. “So, um, is that OK?”

“Yeah, I suppose it is. How much is it?” I gasped as I saw that they had dined well and had drunk a nice bottle of wine. “It’s fine, I’ll take care of it. Might as well bring me my check and I’ll settle everything.”

After paying, I sat sipping my cranberry juice and fuming a little. It had been an accident after all. I suppose I owed her for the sweater, which I’m sure was absurdly expensive, and making me buy her dinner was clever, but the brashness with which she had handled it got under my skin a little. I decided I need to get something for my money.

“Hi. Is this seat taken?”

Angora woman looked up at me and then turned to her friend. “Watch out Clarissa, you might want to move back from the table. There’s no telling who will get hit with a drink next.”

“Ha. Ha. I suppose I deserve that. But if I’m going to buy you dinner, you could at least spend 10 minutes with me and introduce yourself and your friend.”

“Oh, so I guess you didn’t get a second date then?” She was mocking me, and not nicely. “I suppose you can sit for a few minutes, but please try not to douse anyone.”

The woman who appeared to be Clarissa said, “Oh come on, be nice to the poor boy. The way you described it, it did sound like an accident.”